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This question asks about traditional artificial wombs viability (Is an artificial womb feasible?). I was wondering if we could take an alternative route by using a biological womb instead.

Is it possible that we could utilize animals as surrogate wombs for humans? I know that currently we have found some species can act as surrogates for closely related species children, but the majority of the time a mother's body will reject most other embryos. However, in the future we will develop new techniques and tricks, and thus could theoretically work around existing problems.

Thus we get to my question. Is it possible in the somewhat near future to develop a technique to allow us to implant a human embryo within another species and have that creature carry the embryo to term. For now you can assume surrogate situations where the mother is not available to carry, an animal does not need to be a better surrogate then a human, just as viable (or even almost as viable) as a human surrogate for situations when no human is available to be a surrogate.

If it is viable I have a few follow up questions. First, is it possible to pick from a number of animals to be a surrogate? Will we be limited to only primates, or perhaps we would have to genetically manipulate (using near future technology, so genetic engineering is still limited and must be a comparatively easy change) the creature to accept human embryos?

Second, is it reasonable to believe that this approach could be an option prior to mechanical artificial wombs being developed, since there is no reason to go this route if we have viable artificial wombs to use.

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    $\begingroup$ This would give a whole new meaning to "Son of a b!tch" $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Sep 4 '15 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ This wikipedia page on Interspecific pregnancy might prove useful. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Sep 4 '15 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ I just want to say that really I wonder the opposite but similar, could a human bear another animals' baby to term. We could help other animals instead of increasing human overpopulation. $\endgroup$ – user25157 Aug 10 '16 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ Back in the 90s, the TV show Picket Fences had an episode where cows (specially bred and cared for under extremely controlled circumstances) were used as surrogates to carry human infants to term. $\endgroup$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Aug 10 '16 at 3:23
  • $\begingroup$ @user25157 As stated this should be a comment, but I won't punish you for it since your new to the site and don't know the rules :). To answer your implied question, probably not well. A trade off for our big brains & upright posture was that were pretty bad at the whole pregnancy/birth thing. Only very small animals could be carried in the womb even if all the other issues were addressed, and anything small enough to carry in such a way is less likely to be endangered & also likely an easily bread R species making human surrogates far harder then carrying themselves. $\endgroup$ – dsollen Aug 10 '16 at 13:52
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In theory there is no reason why this is not possible, in the same way that in theory there is nothing stopping a completely artificial womb being constructed.

There are definitely complications to this method and we are only just starting to learn ways to mitigate these complications:

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interspecific_pregnancy:

For example, embryos of the species Spanish Ibex are aborted when inserted alone into the womb of a goat, but when introduced together with a goat embryo, they may develop to term.

http://media.longnow.org/files/2/REVIVE/THER1999%20Interspec.%20embr.%20transfer%20S.Ibex%20Dom.goat.pdf

The fetus needs a specific mix of nutrients, environment and stimulation. There is also a feedback cycle where the fetus sends signals back to the womb and that entire communication process is currently very little understood. Clearly the more closely related the species the lower the risks, but still it's not simple.

It's hard to know when someone will make the big breakthrough that's needed but quite simply - for the next ten to twenty years this will be used for saving endangered species and studied in animals.

Depending on how many complications that does or does not find human trials would be technically possible but would run into a legal and ethical minefield that could hold them up indefinitely.

So really 20 years from now is the soonest likely to be possible (if everything turns out to be fairly straightforwards) but never (except for people acting outside the law) is just as likely.

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